The Montreal Canadians played the Toronto Maple Leafs tough in their season opener on Wednesday night. Considering the Leafs were the heavy favourite, with the addition of superstar centremen John Taveras in the offseason adding to the Maple Leafs already elite level offence, and the Canadians shipped out their veteran high-end talent in exchange for high upside prospects and draft picks, little was expected out of Montreal this season.
While opening night is a small sample size and not a projectable outcome for the season, the Canadians played the Leafs tough and lost 3-2 in overtime. The Canadians loss was not the story of the game though, the young Habs came out of the gates flying and dominated in the even strength game, finishing the game at over 59% possession in the 5-on-5 game. The backcheck and forecheck was able to successfully, and consistently, pin the potent offence of the Maple Leafs in their own end.
If the Canadians play like they did on Wednesday, they may not be as terrible as many projected them to be this season.
That’s a big If.
Listen, I can’t see the future, I don’t know how this Montreal team is going to operate and play day in and day out. But here’s what I know from that game. The Canadians success didn’t come from extreme talent, and they didn’t have superior tactics or game planning. Their success comes from being high energy and high effort. That’s tough to maintain over the course of a season. It is more than likely this team will struggle through stretches once the grind of the season opens up, even more so if the giants of the division (Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto), start breaking away in the playoff race it’ll become more and more difficult to maintain that energy.
But you know what isn’t reliant on that high energy? Goaltending, and Carey Price is good enough to carry this team to a lot of places.
Carey Price is now in the first year of his brand new eight-year, 10.5-million-dollar contract, making him the highest paid goalie on the NHL. Which is well deserved, as a Vezina award-winning goalie, Price is one of the few individuals in the league who can carry a franchise on his back. He’s elite.
Carey Price can take an odd-man-rush and shut it down immediately. He isn’t reliant on strong blueline play, or perfect defensive coverages.
Again, I don’t know if the Habs can continue their pace. But what I know, is that with Carey Price, the burden of success on a young roster is significantly lower.